Autotesting – Low cost automotive ballet

19 Replies

Motorsport is notorious for being costly. It starts off as a bit of fun, but then the competitive spirit kicks it. Being competitive usually means chucking more money at competition car than is eminently sensible.  There has to be some sort of low cost motorsport that’s big on thrills, but easy on the wallet? There is. Let me introduce you to the wheel-spinning world of autotesting.

Autotesting MX-5

The rules of autotesting are simple but a bit mad at the same time. I mean, it’s a motorsport where competitors race against the clock, yet barely use anything more than second gear. Even more bizarrely, portions of the course are covered in reverse. Basically, an autotest event involves guiding a car through a series of manoeuvres, generally around traffic cones, to measure car control. That’s not really doing autotesting justice. It’s a automotive symphony of handbrake turns, reverse flicks and high revving sprints. If it all sounds a bit Gymkhana-esque, it’s because it is. Only these guys were doing it first.

The driver with the lowest accumulated time is the winner, although penalties are incurred for hitting cones, failing to stop on a line, or for taking the wrong route. Cars can range from road going retro-classics to modified specials – or quite simply the ‘anything goes’ class.

Autotesting Mini

Because of the low speeds involved, safety gear like race suits and helmets are not needed. Whilst a clubman competition licence is needed to compete, this is easy to obtain. Some events are even open to competitors aged 14 and up. This particular event was organised by the TSCCNI and took place on the wide open expanse of Millisle air field.

In the world of clubman autotesting, the Mazda Mx-5 is king. Bullet proof mechanicals, diminutive proportions and rear wheel drive make a formidable package. What also helps is that Mx-5 is also readily available and relatively cheap. Especially compared to the former stalwarts of autotesting – the Mini and MG.

Autotesting MX-5

So, if you find yourself a loose end and fancy seeing some cars pirouetting round poles and being thrashed in reverse, before J-turning into a coned garage, check out autotesting. There can’t be too many forms of motorsport where its nigh on mandatory to compete with the roof down!

Pictures by Graham Curry Photography



About Author

Chris, known as Cess on the forums, is a long time RMS member. He is a fervent motorsports enthusiast and lover of all things automotive. He can be found on the ditches of most Irish rallies, at Mondello watching drifting or in front of the TV watching motorbike racing.

RMS Forum Comments

Graham replied at 14:26, Tue 22 Mar, 2016
So much for for such little money and teaches a hell of a lot of car control basics !
Cooper replied at 16:29, Tue 22 Mar, 2016
Looks like a lot of fun. How much are the entry costs?
FM155 replied at 20:25, Tue 22 Mar, 2016
Did the MGCC autotest a couple of saturdays ago at nutts corner and it was £20 each entry for myself and my son. They also ran a tutorial in the morning with George McMillan and Mark Falkner as the tutors. Fantastic that the experienced guys are willing to invest time and patience into beginners to the sport. I think there were 36 entries which is a decent entry for a club event.
Graham replied at 21:22, Tue 22 Mar, 2016
You are talking about £15 for annual club membership and about £20 per event plus a couple of quid fuel and tyre wear most events seen 30+ entries
Rooneyrocket replied at 22:21, Tue 22 Mar, 2016
Is a cage needed
OZ10 replied at 22:33, Tue 22 Mar, 2016
Clubman licence not needed unless competiting in NI Championship which is top end of the sport. Cage not needed. Standard road can compete. As said standard fee's are around £15 per year membership, only need to be a member of one club to compete in any autotest unless you want to do a clubs championship then be a member of that club. Usual fee's are around £20 to compete, no higher unless you go to championship autotesting. If you are going to Dubshed we are running a NI championship round on the Saturday and a Tandem Autotest on the Sunday for invited drivers. I created this topic a while back, some links are dead - will try get them updated soon Introduction to Autotesting Any more questions feel free to contact me.
Rooneyrocket replied at 22:39, Tue 22 Mar, 2016
When is the next one Sorry i see now dubshed, how can i be invited
OZ10 replied at 22:45, Tue 22 Mar, 2016
| When is the next one
Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs Dont think the one this weekend is running. So next one will be our Dubshed event then the Peak Performance Motor Club one on the 21st April which is at Downpatrick Racecourse.
Apis replied at 22:53, Tue 22 Mar, 2016
Biggest problem for me would be remembering the route to take round the cones. It always looks very confusing.
OZ10 replied at 23:08, Tue 22 Mar, 2016
| Biggest problem for me would be remembering the route to take round the cones. It always looks very confusing.
Depends on what level you want to start at. The TSCC events like the one pictured are all forwards motion and are usually fairly simple to navigate around. You are allowed to walk the test however many times you want before the event. Once the event starts generally you wouldnt walk the test again but depends on the club and the layout of tests.